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How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... Vaiden is just as firmly rooted in local reality – in this case, the North Carolina about which Reynolds Price has been writing for more than twenty years now. The name, at once plain and elusive, might have appealed to Henry James. The echoes of ‘maiden’ and ‘evading’ are particularly apposite, for despite starting her sexual life at the age ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... to my being what I am’. He is referring to passionate friendships with men – with the novelist Reynolds Price and with Bryan Obst, a zoologist who died of Aids in 1991, and was buried to the sound of birdsong. Stephen’s putative conversion to heterosexuality is treated here as a happy, if also unhappy myth. His accounts of intermittent meetings with ...


David Reynolds: The Real Mrs Miniver, 25 April 2002

The Real Mrs Miniver 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Murray, 314 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 7195 5541 8
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Mrs Miniver 
by Jan Struther.
Virago, 153 pp., £7.99, November 2001, 1 85381 090 8
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... on the credits, and the commentary was delivered by the veteran American correspondent Quentin Reynolds. An estimated 60 million Americans saw the film in the winter of 1940-41. As Nicholas Cull observed in Selling War (1995), the Blitz became an Anglo-American ‘co-production’. This was the atmosphere in which Mrs Miniver climbed to the top of ...

Narrow Places

Brad Leithauser, 15 October 1987

Selected Poems 
by Molly Holden.
Carcanet, 126 pp., £6.95, June 1987, 0 85635 696 4
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The Player Queen’s Wife 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 78 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 571 14998 7
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The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill 
by Stephen Yenser.
Harvard, 367 pp., £21.95, June 1987, 0 674 16615 9
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... more tellingly here because the ‘sage side’ emerges only in death. Knowledge carried a dear price in Holden’s precise and constricted world. In The Player Queen’s Wife, his second collection, Oliver Reynolds does Hopkins and his ‘curtal sonnet’ one better. Hopkins trimmed the sonnet to ten and a half ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement, 29 November 2001

The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... novelists, Dickens and Thackeray became journalists as well. Bored with running newspapers, G.W.M. Reynolds and Mark Lemon turned their hand to penny dreadfuls and comedies. The deregulation of the London stage in 1843 meant that actors, managers and playwrights competed for ever-growing theatrical audiences. And the great schism in the Scottish churches, the ...

A Republic of Taste

Thomas Crow, 19 March 1987

The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt: ‘The Body of the Public’ 
by John Barrell.
Yale, 366 pp., £16.95, October 1986, 0 300 03720 1
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... exercise. There is no contemporary body of French academic texts to compare in comprehension to Reynolds’s lectures, none that reflect as subtly on the question of ancients and moderns as do Fuseli’s, and certainly none that transform, as do Barry’s, the liberal-art aspirations of painting into a sustained critique of the status quo. The best ...

A Smaller Island

Matthew Reynolds: David Mitchell, 10 June 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 469 pp., £18.99, May 2010, 978 0 340 92156 2
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... attached’. This is the occasion of Jacob’s first encounter with the alluring Orito; as the price of arranging a second, Dr Marinus forces him to ‘loan his gluteus maximus to medical science’ so as to demonstrate to Orito and his other students the ‘smoke glister’, applied anally to avert ‘death by intussusception or … in the ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... writing professor, William Blackburn (whose creative writing programme taught and mentored Styron, Reynolds Price, Mac Hyman, Fred Chappell and Anne Tyler), show a commendable respect, seriousness, idealism and work ethic. Right at the start he zeroed in on his weakness as a writer, his over-reliance on rhetorical trumpets, and even in the acutely ...

A Misreading of the Law

Conor Gearty: Why didn’t Campbell sue?, 19 February 2004

Report of the Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Dr David Kelly CMG 
by Lord Hutton.
Stationery Office, 740 pp., £70, January 2004, 0 10 292715 4
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... nobody responsible for the war or that death – not a single minister – has paid a political price. The contrast with the way Lord Hutton treats the BBC is brutal. The corporation’s central claim was that despite its mistakes there had been great public interest in the September 2002 dossier and serious issues of great public importance arose in ...

At the Museum of London

Peter Campbell: Artists’ studios, 7 June 2001

... Cornhill in 1532). Skint artists, rather surprisingly, usually improve property values, and thus price themselves out of the very districts they have made fashionable. ‘Studio flat’ – words which try to give bohemian dash to minimal accommodation – was the last legacy of departed painters to the Chelsea streets they made desirable. The herd’s fat ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... and should assume. Neutrality was, for Wilson, a means not an end. He wanted peace, but not at any price. When the Germans broke their pledge and resumed unrestricted U-boat warfare in 1917, he struck out for the high moral ground, claiming that German wickedness showed that neutrality was no longer possible for any nation and proclaiming a crusade to ‘make ...


Nicholas Penny, 8 March 1990

The Image of the Black in Western Art. Vol. IV, Parts I-II: From the American Revolution to World War One 
by Hugh Honour.
Harvard, 379 pp., £34.95, April 1989, 9780939594177
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Primitive Art in Civilised Places 
by Sally Price.
Chicago, 147 pp., £15.95, December 1989, 0 226 68063 0
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The Return of Cultural Treasures 
by Jeanette Greenfield.
Cambridge, 361 pp., £32.50, February 1990, 0 521 33319 9
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... the most sympathetic and beautiful portraits of blacks ever made by Europeans. One of these is Reynolds’s incomplete and undated study of a young black man listening (it seems) to the winds that disturb the sky behind him, a painting long believed to be a portrait of Dr Johnson’s beloved black servant, Frank Barber. Houdon’s radiant patinated plaster ...


Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... wishes to make similar protestations of disengagement on behalf of women, who have paid a high price for emotional (and economic) servitude. Yet there is something peculiarly English and Victorian, something repressed rather than liberated, about wishing to separate the two, as if the ambiguities of words like ‘desire’ and ‘love-making’ did not ...

Off the hook and into the gutter

Ian Aitken, 7 December 1989

Sunrise: The Remarkable Rise and Rise of the Best-Selling Soaraway ‘Sun’ 
by Larry Lamb.
Macmillan, 260 pp., £7.99, November 1989, 0 333 51070 4
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... looked a good deal less immediate. So the deal was done on 26 September 1969, for a giveaway price of under £1 million – about one pound for each of the Sun’s dwindling number of readers. The Cudlipp Sun finally set on Saturday 15 November 1969, with the last edition of the IPC broadsheet. The Murdoch Sun, a tabloid, rose on Monday, 17 ...

Enjoying every moment

David Reynolds: Ole Man Churchill, 7 August 2003

by John Keegan.
Weidenfeld, 181 pp., £14.99, November 2002, 0 297 60776 6
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Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend since 1945 
by John Ramsden.
HarperCollins, 652 pp., £9.99, September 2003, 0 00 653099 0
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Clementine Churchill: The Revised and Updated Biography 
by Mary Soames.
Doubleday, 621 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 385 60446 7
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Churchill at War 1940-45 
by Lord Moran.
Constable, 383 pp., £9.99, October 2002, 1 84119 608 8
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Churchill’s Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy 
by Klaus Larres.
Yale, 583 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 300 09438 8
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... that awkward facts may have to give way’. During the war Allied soldiers in Italy paid a heavy price for the ‘soft underbelly’; after it, the ‘iron curtain’ proved a barrier to Churchill’s would-be mediation in the Cold War. The extra decade in the limelight after 1945 allowed him to write the lexicon of his own reputation in memoirs and ...

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